Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Politics out, family time in

Mayor insists he never intended to seek re-election

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Sam Katz, as usual, had it his way.

He has long teased the media, the public, and his adversaries by not saying if he would put his political reputation and self-esteem on the line with another run for the mayor's office.

On Friday, he shrugged his shoulders, as he often does, and wondered why anyone had any doubt in the first place.

"My comments had always been two full terms...that I would only run two full terms.

"This would be my last term. That's exactly what I said, and it was an accurate statement," Katz told reporters who huddled around him in the drizzling rain in Central Park.

Katz dropped the bombshell from the park stage at the noon-hour concert he had arranged.

"I said I would continue to work to make Winnipeg a better city as long as there is more work to be done," Katz told the unsuspecting crowd. "I've also said that I would only seek two full terms as mayor.

"And that is why I have decided that I will not be seeking re-election for mayor."

As word spread on social media, reporters scrambled from across the city. Katz waited politely in the rain and jokingly chastised the newshounds for ever questioning him.

Katz referred to a brief moment four years ago -- election night, Oct, 27, 2010 -- when, after winning election as mayor for the third time, he stood on a platform in the ballroom of the downtown Radisson Hotel with his two young daughters and soon-to-be wife and vowed it would be his last go-round.

He never again mentioned that moment until Friday.

While Katz seemingly took pleasure in politics and working toward improving the city, he regularly said politics takes a toll on family life and credited everyone willing to make that sacrifice for public office.

Katz said he and his family -- which expanded with the birth of a son -- had sacrificed enough.

"After 10 years, you do sacrifice family time, and my family is important to me. I know my loving wife would have said to me, 'Darling if that's what you want, I'd support you,' but I know in her heart, she was hoping that I would not run and spend more time with the family, which is something I very much want to do."

Katz was first elected mayor in 2004 during a mid-term byelection necessitated by the resignation of Glen Murray. Katz handily defeated a field of high-profile contenders, including St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal, by riding a wave of popular support that followed the 1999 construction of the downtown baseball stadium now known as Shaw Park.

Katz was re-elected in 2006, when he easily dispatched former NDP MLA Marianne Cerilli.

In 2010, in a closer election, Katz defeated former NDP MP and MLA Judy Wasylycia-Leis by approximately 25,000 votes.

During his third term, Katz was challenged by the defeat of a plan to build a hotel and water park at The Forks, the fire-paramedic station construction scandal and massive cost overruns at the Winnipeg police headquarters construction project.

The scandals contributed to the departure of Katz's friend and confidante, Phil Sheegl, who was hired by the city as a property director and rose to become chief administrative officer.

Katz told reporters Friday he's proud of accomplishments such as the reconstruction of the inner-city park, the construction of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and new investments in Assiniboine Park.

He also said he's proud Winnipeg has made unprecedented investments in infrastructure.

Katz admitted he toyed with the idea of breaking that pledge and running again, but said he knew winning a fourth time would be difficult in a race that features several strong candidates.

"In my heart, I still believe (running and winning) was a possibility. When you're talking four or five people and splitting the vote, it is a challenge."

Looking ahead, Katz said he has no definite plans. For the next four months, he said, he would continue to work as he does every day. After city hall, Katz said the opportunities are limitless.

"There are no shortage of opportunities for an entrepreneur," he said, adding his wife would like him to get involved in projects she has in mind.

He even joked he would build a water park -- the scheme to lure a hotel and water park to The Forks that appeared to trigger the public's widespread disenchantment with him.

One thing is for certain, Katz said, he'll be done with politics.

"I can't tell you how many times I said I'm not a career politician. I'd been asked to run at different levels of government and I told them all I had no interest whatsoever."

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 21, 2014 A4

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